A PILOT from Salisbury is set to become the first to fly tourists into space.

David Mackay, 53, is the chief pilot for Virgin Galactic, which aims to run the first commercial sub-orbital space flights within two years.

Mr Mackay spent 16 years with the RAF before joining Virgin Atlantic in 1995. It was while he was working as a captain with the company that he was selected as one of four pilots to become Virgin Galactic test pilots.

He went on to work with the development team at Virgin’s Spaceport in the Mojave Desert in California, where he made test flights in Virgin’s WhiteKnightTwo mothership.

The WhiteKnightTwo is a jet-powered cargo aircraft which will be used to launch the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft carrying tourists.

When the ship is in space, up to 360,000ft above the planet, passengers will be allowed to take off their seatbelts and experience weightlessness before the craft makes its return.

The flight duration from lift-off to touchdown will be about three and a half hours.

Tickets into space have already gone on sale and despite costing £125,000 each, more than 400 people have already booked their seats.